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Afghanistan came close twice – in 2022 and 2023 – but at the third time of trying, they got their big moment under the dazzling lights of the Aronos Vale Ground in St Vincent by downing World Cup royalty Australia with an outstanding all-round performance. This win for the ages was set up by a third century stand of the tournament between openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (60) and Ibrahim Zadran (51), but the biggest flex came from veteran Gulbadin Naib, who returned figures of 4 for 20 in the defence of 148. Among his scalps was that of Glenn Maxwell, who was the only Australian standing between Afghanistan and arguably their greatest win in T20 World Cup history.

Where was the game won?

In the first two phases of the game. At the 15-over mark, Afghanistan were 109/0 while Australia were tottering at 108/6. Afghanistan lost their way at the death on what was a tricky, tacky surface but were able to exact a similar collapse (7 for 56) off their vaunted opposition, with Maxwell’s dismissal in the 15th over for a 41-ball 59 decisively turning the course of the game.

Afghanistan Phase Australia
40/0 (5x4s; 2x6s) PowerPlay 33/3 (4x4s; 0x6s)
69/0 (6x4s; 1x6s) Middle Overs 75/3 (5x4s; 3x6s)
39/6 (2x4s; 2x6s) Death Overs 19/4 (1x4s; 0x6s)

Afghanistan

PowerPlay: A steady start on a tricky surface

Phase Score: 40/0 (RR: 6.67, 4s/6s: 5/2)

Australia opted to bowl after swapping out Mitchell Starc for Ashton Agar. Afghanistan were happy to apply scoreboard pressure and it soon became apparent why as Agar found turn and bounce with the third ball of the innings that beat both batter and the ‘keeper to race away for four byes. The surface also held up a touch for the taller, faster bowlers from Australia and after 23 balls in the PowerPlay, Afghanistan had just 11 on the board before Gurbaz hit Cummins for a shackles-breaking six straight down the ground. Gurbaz put away a short ball from Josh Hazlewood for six over mid-wicket in the following over before his partner Ibrahim Zadran hit three fours from the last six balls he faced in the PowerPlay.

Middle Overs: Gurbaz, Zadran reinforce the foundations

Phase Score: 69/0 (RR: 7.67, 4s/6s: 6/1)

The first four overs post-PowerPlay – all bowled by spinners – fetched Afghanistan exactly a run-a-ball 24 as the Afghan openers opted for risk-averse methods to reinforce the foundations through the middle overs. They were sprightly in their running between the wickets and were helped along in their budding partnership by some uncharacteristic Australian fielding benevolence. Marcus Stoinis missed a catch on his bowling followthrough to reprieve Zadran while Matthew Wade missed a stumping — off Zampa — that would have dismissed Gurbaz. Either side of that slip, Gurbaz hit Zampa for a straight six and another misfield in the deep from Agar allowed him to pick up another four. At 109/0 after the 15th over with Gurbaz on 52 and Zadran on 49, Afghanistan were well placed to get to 160 or more with a good final push.

Death Overs: Zampa, hat-trick hero Cummins put a lid on Afghan ambitions

Phase Score: 39/6 (RR: 7.80, 4s/6s: 2/2)

The final flourish, however, didn’t come. Gurbaz slapped Stoinis for his fourth six in the 16th over before falling while charging out and attempting another swipe across the line, only to hit the pull straight to deep square-leg to fall for a 49-ball 60. Stoinis’s send-off to Gurbaz – a two-handed wave – was indicative of the pressure the 2021 champions had found themselves in.

Ninety-five balls was the most they’d had to wait in a T20I innings for a wicket, but having made that breakthrough, Australia made quick further inroads into a line-up desperate to add heft to the total. In his final over, Zampa cleaned up Azmatullah Omarzai with a slider and then produced a short-ball from a front-arm release that got big on Ibrahim Zadran, who ended up splicing it to short third-man.

Cummins then returned with his bag of cutters and exploited the slowish track to great effect. He dismissed Rashid Khan with the last ball of his third over and then had Karim Janat and Gulbadin Naib slogging to fielders in the deep at the start of his final over to complete hat-tricks in successive games. There were two more drops from Australia’s fielders and a Hazlewood over costed 15, allowing Afghanistan to inch towards 150.

Australia

PowerPlay: Naveen-ul-Haq lands the early dents

Phase Score: 33/3 (RR: 5.5, 4s/6s: 4/0)

It was Naveen-ul-Haq and not the chart-topping Fazalhaq Farooqi that opened the bowling for Afghanistan and the change-up proved astute. Naveen generated significant movement, in the air and off the pitch, and with his third delivery, cleaned up Travis Head with a ball that curled away from his around-the-wicket angle. Naveen then deceived Mitchell Marsh with a slower ball that the Australian captain looked to hit over mid-off on length but only managed to sky it to the fielder. David Warner fell in the sixth, top-edging a sweep off Mohammad Nabi, as Afghanistan began to make their score seem more than it was by restricting their powerful opponents to their lowest PowerPlay score of the tournament.

Middle Overs: Maxwell teases reprise but Naib steps up

Phase Score: 75/3 (RR: 8.33, 4s/6s: 5/3)

Maxwell and the in-form Marcus Stonis set about rebuilding Australia’s innings and 37 runs came in the first four post-PowerPlay overs. At 70/3 after 10 overs, Australia were well placed in the chase. It was then that the veteran seam-bowling all-rounder entered the attack. With his third delivery, he broke the partnership with a short ball that got big on Stoinis, who top-edged an attempted pull. Naib trapped Tim David LBW in his next over but between those two strikes, Maxwell struck two sixes and raced to a 35-ball 50, invoking the ghosts of Mumbai, 2023. With Australia playing out three of Rashid’s overs without giving the opposition captain, and talisman, a wicket, the onus was on the other end to turn into an attacking edge. Naib proved to be just that as he got Maxwell slicing a full ball uppishly to backward point, where Noor Ahmad took a sharp catch. At that stage Australia needed just 42 to win from 33.

Death Overs: Afghanistan close out famous win

Phase Score: 19/4 (RR: 4.38, 4s/6s: 1/0)

Rashid came back to bowl his final over in the innings’ 16th. He struck with his first ball as Matthew Wade top-edged a sweep. The situation was now beyond even miracle-man Cummins, who swung across the line to a Naib delivery and was castled by one that kept low. It was the final nail in Australia’s coffin and Afghanistan were almost home and dry to celebrate one of their greatest days in the sport.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 148/6 in 20 overs (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 60, Ibrahim Zadran 51; Pat Cummins 3/28) beat Australia 127 in 19.2 overs (Glenn Maxwell 59; Gulbadin Naib 4-19) by 21 runs.

What next for the teams?

Afghanistan’s win has blown open Group 1 in the Super 8 phase. They, along with India and Australia, remain in semis contention and after the last round of games in this group, NRR could end up playing decider. Rashid & Co. will remain at St Vincent and take on continental rivals Bangladesh in their final Super 8 match on June 24. Australia will head to St Lucia for the blockbuster clash against India in the morning fixture on the same day.

Super 8, Group 1 standings(after Afghanistan-Australia game)

Teams Matches Wins Loss Points NRR
India 2 2 2 4 2.425
Australia 2 1 1 2 0.223
Afghanistan 2 1 1 2 -0.65
Bangladesh 2 0 2 0 -2.489
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